Greenland and beyond

14 September 2012
14 September 2012 | Lagos, Portugal
12 September 2012
10 September 2012
04 September 2012 | Horta, Faial
31 August 2012 | Horta
25 August 2012
22 August 2012
20 August 2012
16 August 2012 | Nanortalik, E Greenland
15 August 2012 | East Greenland
15 August 2012 | East Greenland
15 August 2012 | Greenland
06 August 2012
04 August 2012 | 64.20319
02 August 2012 | East Greenland
31 July 2012 | Reykjavik
30 July 2012 | Reykjavik
26 July 2012 | Reykjavik
23 July 2012 | Vestmannaeyjar

And finally.....

14 September 2012
The last post!

Journey's End

14 September 2012 | Lagos, Portugal
Mother Nature must have sensed that we were simply having too good a time and becoming complacent about completing this 1000 mile crossing and She decided to dish out a good scolding. We had strong winds and vicious waves for around 24 hours, and spent Wednesday night wondering when the next wave would break and give us another cold shower. In short, we took a good lashing! I guess that served as a reminder that it ain't over until the lines are tied on the dock.

By sunrise on Thursday, the weather was starting to abate and we began the process of drying out, getting out of wet gear and into dry clothes and cleaning the salt from our whiskers. It was then time to do the daily mileage calculation, and we had covered 147 miles and were closing fast on Lagos - we would be there by early afternoon, a day and a half earlier than expected.

It was a great feeling to be closing on our destination and the end of the journey from The Azores, but it was also a time for reflection as this was the end of our Greenland And Beyond adventure, and 2 ½ months of sailing.

And so it is time to start winding up this blog, but first there are a few 'thank you's' to make:

To the crew of Astrid, for putting up with each other in such close conditions, and maintaining a sense of humour and respect for one another throughout.

To all of our loved ones who have been neglected for the past 18 months during the planning, preparation and execution of this selfish indulgence- we will make up for it, promise!

To our friends and colleagues for their support, and the interest they have shown in the project.

To Mr. Jens Fisker, for specifying Astrid to such a high standard, resulting in a most practical, seaworthy craft - She has served us well and kept us safe throughout.

To The Lord above, for creating an amazing world full of natural wonders, and for gifting us with the curiosity to want to explore it.

And finally to Anders, for having the crazy idea of following his Viking forefathers to Greenland in a little wooden sailing boat, and for inviting us to join him.

Thank you to all those who have read this blog, and given feedback, support and encouragement - this has been really appreciated by all of us. We have had a truly unique and memorable adventure, we hope you have enjoyed being along for the ride, and we leave you with these wise words;


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbour.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
(Mark Twain)

Best Wishes,

ASTRID

Pancake Tuesday

12 September 2012
Nigel Davison
Pancake Tuesday

Tuesday morning, and after the record distance covered the day before, the wind had dropped and the sea was completely flat - slow sailing, but perfect for cooking. We were out of eggs, bacon and most other breakfast ingredients by that point, so Anders took to the galley to make pancakes. We had lemon and sugar, two types of jam and to Anders' delight a full jar of Nutella. Pete and Nigel had countless pancakes, and Anders even had a couple to go with his chocolate feast.

After breakfast, we were treated to another feeding frenzy - a huge pod of dolphins passed ahead, seemingly chasing their breakfast too. They were leaping clear out of the water and swimming at an incredible speed, and unusually they seemed way too preoccupied to come for a closer visit to Astrid.

We passed the '200-miles-to-go' point, and as Pete was at the tiller, it was his privilege to blow the horn for the first time on the trip, which he did with great gusto. At the same time, another small pod of dolphins arrived, and this time they spent a good while swimming to and fro immediately in front of our bow, just below the surface, giving a great filming opportunity. The movie is in the 'cutting room' and will be released shortly.

As the day wore on, the wind became lighter and lighter, and our progress slowed to almost a standstill. After such good progress the day before, this was really frustrating, but Anders was resolute that we would persevere - this was a sailing trip. However, after several hours of flapping sails and no progress, he finally agreed to summon The Devil to unleash His 28 Demons (our trusty Volvo 28Hp motor) to power us toward our destination, much to the relief of the crew. As it was, we were sailing again within a couple of hours, and we are heading towards Portugal at pace.

Earlier in the day, Anders also returned to the galley for a second time to make Popcorn, and although there was no cold beer or chilled white wine to go with it, it went down well. We also practiced our song, "When The Boat Comes In", to be performed on arrival at the Visitors Quay in Lagos - again this will be available to download soon! We also started discussing how we might end the blog in an appropriate manner - more on this later!

Divine Intervention

10 September 2012
Nigel Davison
Divine Intervention

We left Horta on Tuesday afternoon, but not before making our final visit to Café Sport for a steak lunch, but also to follow another sailing custom of the Island and leave a memento from Astrid. In our case this was our Greenland courtesy flag, with "S.Y.ASTRID" and "GREENLAND AND BEYOND, 2012" written on in black marker pen. It is now hanging proudly in the bar, as the only Greenland flag among the thousands of others from more usual sailing destinations.

We had also planned to visit the fishing expert to replenish our tackle, but unfortunately it was siesta time and he was closed - not a good start to the fishing!

We left the harbour around 14:30 in beautiful sailing conditions on our final leg of the trip, bound for the Portuguese Algarve port of Lagos, a sail of 960 miles. The first 200 miles would take us through the other islands of The Azores, before heading due EAST (oops!) to Portugal.

By day 4, we had made slow progress, with light winds and flat seas, and we averaged only 85 nautical miles per day. Then the wind died all together and we were forced to motor for the next 17 hours - this was not in our plan!

The Sea Gods had been kind to us - there were several dolphin shows, spectacular "Mothers Fire" (fluorescence) and the clearest starry nights imaginable.
There was also a divine delivery - a Flying Fish had landed on our foredeck and expired there. We had a dilemma - do we eat the small morsel now, or use it to catch something bigger? As we had no idea how long it had been there, we decided to use it for bait. Armed with 3 sharp hooks, it was despatched on a line and towed behind, slowing our progress slightly but with a handsome reward sure to follow soon.

After 24 hours, the poor creature had been reduced to a cartoon skeleton of head and tail, with the bones picked clean, and we still had not caught a fish! It was pasta with red sauce and canned tuna for supper!

If you are ever unlucky enough to have someone say to you "Don't worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea..." then you should worry. You can expect countless hours alone with your rod in your hand, and the taste of fish a fading memory. There may well be plenty of fish in the sea, but they are not easy to catch!

It is now Monday, and the wind has returned. We have just recorded the best 24 hour distance covered of the whole trip so far - 153 nautical miles. The sun is still shining and we are in good spirits, looking forward to arriving in Lagos in the knowledge that the comforts and pleasures we have deprived ourselves of for the last 3 months await us there.



Graffiti

04 September 2012 | Horta, Faial
Nigel Davison
With a tear in the eye, we waved goodbye to Tom, as he left the Azores for his return to the UK and the end of his first sailing adventure! We wish him and Jocelyn a happy reunion, and don't worry Jos, only 637 more slides to go!

As we waited for the return of Pete for the final leg to Portugal, we decided to tour the island by scooter - there was a volcano to climb and several beaches to explore. The scooter rental guy took one look at us, and decided we needed to have the large scooters to get us up the hills - but he didn't charge for the upgrade!

We figured that it was worth asking for directions - local knowledge is usually a good thing. Soon after, we came around a bend in the track and right into the middle of an exclusion area where a wind turbine was having it's rotors fitted. "Had we not seen the road sign?"

Once the foreman calmed down a little, we again asked for directions to the top of the volcano. "Take a left then a right in the clearing - it will be the best way" he told us, and again we trusted local knowledge. As we turned up the hill on what can only be described as a dirt track, we crossed a cattle grid, and were soon confronted by a group of the largest and most aggressive cows we had ever met - they clearly believed that it was their road we were using, and none shall pass without a password. Good job we had the 125cc scooters! We eventually reached the top of the volcano, which was shrouded in cloud. It was cold and wet, and we could see nothing - a bit like sailing really?

Pete arrived on Sunday night, and we met him in the bar with a cold beer, then off to the nearest restaurant for a juicy steak. Moo to you too!

It is tradition that yachts leaving Horta make a painting on the quayside, to bring them good fortune and a safe journey. Out of respect for this tradition (or maybe fear of upsetting the sea gods) we duly prepared our artwork, entitled "Greenland and Beyond" (see photo). If anyone ever visits Horta, and you should, you will find it if you align the red light on the end of the south pier with berth number B32, and look down. You need these directions, as there are literally thousands of paintings adorning every square inch of the pavement and walls - legalised graffiti on a mammoth scale!

We will leave Horta this afternoon bound for Lagos in Portugal - hopefully we will have fair winds and make the passage in 10 days or so.

Welcome to the Azores

31 August 2012 | Horta
Tom Maxfield
We arrived in Horta in the early hours of Thursday morning after a 300-hour sail from Greenland covering 1437 nautical miles. It was our longest leg of the trip, easily surpassing the 136-hour voyage from the Faeroes to Iceland.

We were definitely ready to leave Nanortalik behind and head south and, with favourable winds, we made rapid progress in the first couple of days. In terms of weather we experienced the broad spectrum of everything Nature could throw at us. We started with fast winds but then encountered thick fog and had to negotiate, or rather avoid, numerous icebergs. Thank goodness for radar! We then came across pack ice, floating bits of ice as big as the boat, which meant we had to reduce speed to dead slow and keep a sharp lookout.

A few days out of Horta, having congratulated ourselves on avoiding the severe low that threatened heavy rain and strong winds, we encountered a low that had built on top of the first depression and found ourselves in the middle of a force 8 gale for 36 hours. Steering Astrid through this was for experienced sailors only, so while Anders and Nigel took turns at the helm, my contribution was a continuous stream of Hail Marys. It was a very scary experience with monstrous waves coming from all directions in a very confused sea and even more frightening in the pitch dark. Eventually we came through it and were able to settle back into our normal routine.

As we sailed south we started looking forward to a few days of warm weather where we could swap our sailing gear for shorts and T-shirts but in the event we only got one day like that. We were confident that as we approached Horta the weather would be calm and we could come in at a leisurely pace, basking in the sunshine. Instead, we had strong head winds and a heavy swell and we took turns getting soaked in the cockpit by random waves picking us out as easy targets.

Nigel's fishing score remains unchanged. The reason for his lack of success, allegedly, is because Astrid sails far too fast for any fish to be lured by the bait. Having said that, during the gale some monster of the deep was hooked and escaped with the entire fishing reel. We didn't notice at the time as our attention was focused elsewhere. We were also treated to a very impressive display of synchronised swimming by at least twenty dolphins showing off alongside us. It was a real treat as their entire bodies came out of the water just a few metres away from us.

We had a lazy day in Horta yesterday after such a long time at sea and just enjoyed the sunny weather. This place is a Mecca for sailors crossing the Atlantic and our first stop on arrival was the famous Café Sport. We couldn't believe that it was closed but after three knocks on the door it was magically opened and within minutes three very welcome and very cold beers arrived. Bliss.

The plan is to spend a few days here before continuing to Portugal. I'm jumping ship at this point, to be replaced by Pete who is flying out in a few days, so future updates en route to Portugal will be provided by Nigel.

It's been a fabulous adventure and we've witnessed and experienced things that would normally be the preserve of David Attenborough or Bear Grylls, so we feel immensely privileged. Each of us has his own view of what the highlights were and collectively we would have to say that spotting our first iceberg has to be right up there, only surpassed when Nigel and I took the dinghy out and actually stood on an enormous iceberg. Seeing whales swimming alongside Astrid for the first time was hugely exciting, as was our midnight approach to Iceland with the small offshore islands silhouetted against a spectacular sunset. The stunning natural beauty of East Greenland with mountains, glaciers and waterfalls was made even more dramatic given that we were totally alone with not a single human being for 300 miles. Turnaround Sound was literally uncharted waters and we had to go very slowly to avoid the danger of submerged rocks. The mist that shrouded the mountains provided a surreal atmosphere as we encountered enormous icebergs along the narrow passage. Our approach to Toryori in the Faeroes as we turned into the fjord was a real milestone as it meant that we had really left Britain behind and were soon to arrive in our first foreign port.

We've sailed over 3500 nautical miles and the next leg to Portugal will cover another 1000. Throughout it all Astrid has performed like a true thoroughbred. She might be an old girl with some quirky ways but we love her.
Vessel Name: Astrid
Vessel Make/Model: Custom built 32ft canoe stern built in diagonally glued mahogany. Built in Sletten, Denmark, 1990.
Hailing Port: Sunderland
Crew: Anders Thomsen, Nigel Davison, Pete Sinkinson, Tom Maxfield
Astrid's Photos - Main
No Photos
Created 3 July 2012

S/V Astrid

Who: Anders Thomsen, Nigel Davison, Pete Sinkinson, Tom Maxfield
Port: Sunderland